Subtle Political Maneuvering Using U.S. Census

Recently during the period for completing the U.S.’s official 2010 Census form, there was a very cleverly disguised campaign that on the surface seemed to be a campaign to improve the rights of Chinese Americans who came to the U.S. from Taiwan. In actuality, it was a campaign for Taiwan independence.

The campaign was in the form of widely circulated emails with an accompanying youtube video: The Census form has a question “What is your race?” and offers a list of boxes to check, including:

  • White
  • Black African American
  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian Indian
  • Japanese
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Vietnamese
  • Other Asian – Print race
  • Some other race – Print race

The video urged people from Taiwan not to check the box “Chinese,” but instead check the box “Other Asian – Print race” and write in “Taiwanese.” It urged people to complete the Census form, because Census data help to determine Congressional seats, community services, and $400 billion in federal funds.

It is good to remind people to send back the Census form. But let’s analyze the political meaning of this campaign. Note that the Census form did not distinguish various groups of Chinese, e.g., Cantonese, Shanghainese, Fukienese, etc. So the purpose of the campaign was not to identify from which part of China the responder came from. Its purpose was to declare that Taiwan is an independent country.

I respect people’s rights to have different political viewpoints, including believing in Taiwan independence. But the campaign was cleverly designed so that people could be fooled to follow their advice without realizing that they were supporting Taiwan independence. The video gave the impression that it came from the U.S. Census Bureau and was an official U.S. government produced video. It even had someone mimicking President Barack O’Bama as though President O’Bama is urging people to do this. In reality, the video was produced by the Taiwanese American Citizens League and the Taiwanese American Foundation.

Many people were misled. For example, the principal of a local Chinese school sent an email to the whole school reminding people to send back the Census form and referring to the above video link. When asked why she sent that email that can potentially divide the Chinese school community, instead of uniting it, she said that there was no political overtone in her intent. She did not have the intent of sending an email to the whole Chinese school as the principal of that Chinese school to urge Taiwan independence. The purpose of this article is to make sure that people understand the real political meaning of that video.

The statement in the video that it is important to send back the Census form because Census data help to determine Congressional seats, community services, and $400 billion in federal funds is correct. However, following the advice of that video could actually hurt Chinese Americans in the U.S. because it would reduce the count of Chinese Americans, resulting in less appointments of Chinese Americans to various government positions, such as federal judges, cabinet positions, deputy secretaries, etc.

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